(Damn, what an unflattering picture of Werdum. It’s just one of those things where the camera catches you at the exact wrong moment, and you wind up making a strange expression that you’d never make again in a million–OH SHIT. / Photo courtesy of M-1Global.com.)
Look, we’re all still a little emotional from USA’s World Cup exit this afternoon, and the only cure is bloodshed. Luckily, Fedor Emeliananko returns to the Strikeforce cage tonight at the HP Pavilion in San Jose against Fabricio "Grappler’s Chance" Werdum, while Cris Cyborg will be tearing apart some random blonde woman. Plus, Scott Smith and Cung Le re-do their last fight for the hell of it, former lightweight champ Josh Thomson tries to rebound against Pat Healy, and an MMA legend might announce his retirement.
Round-by-round results from the "Fedor vs. Werdum" Showtime broadcast will be piling up after the jump beginning at 10 p.m. ET; refresh your browser every few minutes for all the latest. (The show is delayed on the West Coast, so beware of spoilers.) And yes, "Tucson" is misspelled on Fedor’s t-shirt in the above photo, but that’s what happens when you do all your shopping at consignment shops in Stary Oskol. Humble guy, this Last Emperor.
Gus Johnson is rockin’ some mustache-stubble tonight to offset his painted lips. Mauro explains that the main event is a title elimination bout. Y’know, this Fedor kid has potential, but I just don’t think he’s earned it yet. Fedor is shown backstage wearing his Clinch Gear-brand walkout shirt. As you may have heard, he was originally sponsored by TapouT for this fight; when the UFC caught wind of it, they threatened to ban TapouT permanently.
John Thomson vs. Pat Healy
Round 1: Healy stalks forward. Thomson backs him off with punches. Thomson shoots for a double leg, but Healy sprawls and they’re back standing, against the fence. Healy with a knee to the body. Healy tries to grab a leg, and Thomson stuffs him to the mat and sets up an armbar after scrambling on top. He locks it, but Healy manages to squirm out. Thomson switches to a triangle choke attempt. Healy escapes. Thomson gets to his feet, but Healy slams him to the mat and takes his back. Healy sinks the hooks and looks to set up the rear-naked. Thomson shucks out and tries for a heel-hook. Healy escapes, and they both get to their feet. Healy clinches, Thomson flips him to the mat. They tangle on the mat until the horn sounds. I’d say 10-9 Thomson for the multiple sub attempts.
Round 2: Thomson with a left hook and leg kick. Healy nails the double leg and puts Thomson down hard. Healy moves to Thomson’s back and works for the choke. Again, Healy has his hooks in, but Thomson twists around and Healy winds up in half-guard. Healy working some punches. Thomson establishes full guard briefly, but Healy passes to half-guard right away. Thomson gets to his feet, but Healy dumps him down. Thomson lands a hard upkick and tries to set up a triangle. It doesn’t pan out, so he settles for some sharp elbows to Healy’s thigh. Thomson sets up another armbar, but Healy defends it and gets back in Thomson’s guard. Healy works the body while Thomson tries to get an arm around Healy’s neck as the round ends. Healy may have evened out the score.
Round 3: Thomson lands a right straight, and another overhand. Then a c ounter right and a jab. Healy comes forward and lands a punch of his own. Thomson tries a teep but Healy catches it. Thomson shakes out. Healy with a hook to the body. Healy with a stiff jab. Healy pushes Thomson back into the fence, but Thomson circles out. Healy gets Thomson against the fence once again and scores a takedown. Thomson reverses beautifully and takes Healy’s back after landing in north/south. He gets an arm around Healy’s neck and Healy tries to buck him off. The arm is deep. Healy does his best to hang on and defend the sub, but can’t make it happen and is forced to tap. Still, it was a much tougher fight than Thomson was probably expecting. Josh Thomson def. Pat Healy via submission (rear-naked choke) 4:27 of round 3.
No interview for Thomson. Instead, we get a look at Werdum yukking it up with his homies backstage, some shout-outs to the Strikeforce stars in attendance, and a quick interview with hulking heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem. The Demolition Man predicts that Fedor will knock Werdum out tonight, but he’ll be happy to fight whoever wins. And it’s already time for Cyborg vs. Finney…
Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos vs. Jan Finney
Finney says that Cyborg is not a god; everybody makes mistakes. Yeah, Cuddles, you made a mistake by taking this fight. BOO-yah. Kim Winslow is the third-person in the cage for this one. Or as I call her, "Big Jane McCarthy." Forrest Whitaker gets a huge pop from the crowd for some reason.
Round 1: Cyborg jabs. She takes a counter-punch, which only enrages her. She comes in brawling and smashes Finney back to the fence. They clinch. Finney works out of it. Cyborg jabs, and wobbles Finney with a 1-2, then lands a hard knee when Finney tries to get her bearings. Cyborg presses her against the cage again. Cyborg gets some space and starts launching straight rights. Finney hits the deck and grabs onto a leg in desperation. Cyborg shoves her down. Finney keeps her at bay with upkicks and the ref quickly orders Finney to stand. She goes back to slugging as soon as Finney gets back up. Finney goes down and Cyborg fires a knee into Finney’s ribs. The ref pauses the fight and deducts a point from Cyborg for punches to the back of the head. Apparently she’d already been warned. Cyborg storms forward when the fight is restarted and goes back to the clinch. Hard punches to the head and body from Cyborg. Finney goes to the mat again. Cyborg gets on top and starts hammering. Finney pushes her off with a kick, but Cyborg jumps back in and starts bombing again. Finney crawls around on the mat, desperately going for a leg. Sakuraba/Wandereli 1 comes to mind. Finney survives the round. Even with the point taken, I’d still give it to Cyborg, 9-8.
Round 2: Finney comes out aggressive and actually lands a couple before Cyborg takes control again. She slugs Finney to her knees and starts pounding again. Finney grabs a leg but can’t do anything with it. Winslow orders her up and Cyborg goes back to teeing off. Finney’s face is a swollen mass of pain. Cyborg has her against the fence again, dropping in knees and punches at every opportunity. The ref breaks ‘em up. Finney’s got some serious heart. She still tries to come forward and land, but Cyborg gives it back ten times harder. One final barrage puts Finney down one last time. Cyborg swarms with punches, bashes Finney in the side of the head a couple times, and the fight is finally stopped. Good Lord. Jan Finney looks like the Elephant Woman. Cris Cyborg def. Jan Finney via KO, 2:56 of round 2. Cyborg says she trains hard so the fight is easy. Johnson asks her who she wants to fight next, and she doesn’t know either.
And yes, it’s actually happening. We get a video tribute to Frank Shamrock, who takes us through his career accomplishments without ever using the name "UFC." He’s welcomed to the cage, introduced as "the prototype of modern MMA and a true pioneer in the sport." "When I was 22, my brother gave me two things," Frank begins. "He gave me an ass whuppin, and he gave me a love of mixed martial arts." He name checks fighters like Gilbert Melendez and Cris Cyborg, and says "they are the future, I am the past." He thanks Scott Coker for dragging him back in the cage and being honest with him. He thanks Showtime, and his family for putting up with him. And he thanks his fans for sticking by him. "It’s been an honor to bleed for you, to break my bones for you, and to entertain you." He bows to each direction of the arena. And that’s it for the fight career of Frank Shamrock; it’s been a great one.
Scott Smith vs. Cung Le
Le has actor Channing Tatum in his corner, who was either in Fighting or Never Back Down. One of those. Don’t make me look it up. Fun fact: All 18 of Smith’s victories have come by stoppage.
Round 1: Smith chases forward and gets tagged already. He slips, but gets back up and starts chasing Le around the cage again, swinging punches. They come to rest against the cage. Smith with some good body shots. Smith moves off and goes back to stalking. Le works some counter punches while retreating. Le with a left straight. Smith with a left hook and right high kick, and Le has to run away. Le lands a 1-2 that wobbles Smith, and Smith shoots. Le sprawls and throws some knees into Smith’s shoulder. Le with some shots to the ribs. Smith tries to get up, but Le a good hold on his upper body. Smith finally gets to his feet and they’re against the fence. Smith gets some space and opens up. Le lands a counter, and another straight left. He gets in a knee that drops Smith. Le gets on Smith’s back and throws some hard body punches to the bell. 10-9 Le.
Round 2: Le starts with high kicks. Smith responds with punches. Le lands a high kick then a reverse kick to the body that drops Smith. Smith covers up against the fence and Le drives a knee into his ribs. Smith gets up. Le throws some knees into his legs before separating. Another reverse kick from Le lands to the liver, sending Smith to the mat, in a heap against the fence. Le pounds on Smith’s head as he turtles against the fence and the ref jumps in. Cung Le def. Scott Smith via KO, 1:46 of round 2. That was brutal. Scott, for the sake of your family, don’t take that rubber match. Le thanks his trainers and says he had to cut out pizza and chocolate for seven weeks, but oh man, that’s gonna change tonight. Johnson reminds him to shout out his new baby, and Le starts babbling about his wife’s 14-hour labor and C-section. Okay, wrap it up, buddy.
Back at cageside, Shamrock tells Gus Johnson that his body’s banged up and he’s a better talker than a fighter these days, hence the retirement. But enough about that sad bastard, it’s time for the main event!
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum
Werdum comes out in his gi. Fedor’s walkout music, as always, is Russian, slow, and kind of depressing. Werdum pulls a surprising amount of boos. San Jose has no love for an underdog. Big John McCarthy is handling biz.
Round 1: Werdum tries a leg kick that misses. Fedor whips a punch combo to the body and head that drops Werdum. Fedor goes in for the kill, but Werdum locks a triangle from the bottom. Oh man. Oh God. Werdum switches to an armbar. FEDOR TAPS. FEDOR TAPS. FEDOR TAPS.
Fabricio Werdum def. Fedor Emelianenko via submission (armbar), 1:09 of round 1. Only in Strikeforce. Fabricio Werdum is thrilled, and gives the victory to California and his fans. "Fedor is the best in the world," he says humbly. "Tonight, I am better, but Fedor is the best." This sets up Werdum vs. Overeem for the belt, but he says he’d be down to rematch Fedor in Russia. And now the mic is given to Fedor and his interpreter. "The one who doesn’t fall doesn’t stand up," Fedor says to applause. He says he was concentrating on the striking, which is why he made the mistake. As for his future in Strikeforce, he says he has one more fight in America.
Strikeforce better have Werdum’s contract locked up, because you’d better believe the UFC will be looking to poach him after this. The commentary team is shell-shocked. But Frank manages to make the event about him. "I’ve been there," he says. "I understand that grudginess to tap when you’re the man."
So, Fedor takes his first defeat. It’s the end of an era, the death of an invincible aura, and a promotional disaster for Strikeforce, who must now find a different use for him. A rematch with Brett Rogers, maybe, or a rebound squash match against someone like Bobby Lashley. Man. Did that really just happen?